due process

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Issues 

Can a state enforce laws that significantly reduce the availability of abortion services while failing to advance any valid interest, including the state’s interest in promoting health?

 

In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2 (“H.B. 2”), which imposed new requirements on abortion clinics. For example, H.B. 2 required a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the abortion clinic. Whole Woman’s Health, a private abortion clinic, sued the state of Texas to lift the new restrictions. The Supreme Court will determine whether a state can enforce laws that significantly reduce the availability of abortion services while failing to advance any valid interest, including the state’s interest in promoting health. Whole Woman’s Health argues that H.B. 2 imposes an undue burden on women’s access to abortions. Hellerstedt contends that H.B. 2’s justification of improving patient health is supported by substantial evidence, and H.B. 2 will not impose a burden in the majority of cases. This case implicates H.B. 2’s effect on women’s health and H.B. 2’s imposed costs on women seeking abortions.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

1a. When applying the Due Process Clause standard associated with the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision, does a court err by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health?



1b. Did the Fifth Circuit err in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health—or any other valid interest?

2. Did the Fifth Circuit err in holding that res judicata provides a basis for reversing the district court’s judgment in part?

In 2013, Texas passed House Bill Two (“H.B. 2”), which places specific requirements on abortion clinics. See Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, 790 F.3d 563 (5th Cir.

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Waddington v. Sarausad

Issues 

When reviewing a petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, is a federal court required to accept a state court determination of the constitutionality of jury instructions?

 

In 1994, respondent Cesar Sarausad was convicted of second degree murder in Washington State Court for his role as a driver in a gang-related shooting. At trial, the prosecution argued in its closing that Sarausad could be found guilty of murder under the Washington accomplice liability statute because, even though he only drove the car, if he was "in for a dime," he was "in for a dollar." After repeated requests for clarification on the accomplice liability rule, which the trial judge answered only by referring the jurors back to the Washington accomplice liability statute, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. Sarausad was convicted; he argued unsuccessfully on direct appeal that the instruction relieved the state of its burden to prove each element of the offense charged. Sarausad eventually sought federal habeas corpus relief, which the Ninth Circuit granted. The State of Washington, seeking to reinstate Sarausad's conviction, petitioned for certiorari from the Supreme Court. In deciding this case, the Supreme Court may determine if a federal court is required to defer to state court determination of state law when interpreting the constitutionality of jury instructions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

The Washington Supreme Court has repeatedly approved of the pattern accomplice liability jury instructions given in Sarausad’s trial, which mirror the statutory language on accomplice liability under state law. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found a violation of due process based its independent conclusion that the instructions were ambiguous, and that there was a reasonable likelihood a jury could misapply the instructions so as to relieve the prosecution of its burden to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

1. In reviewing a due process challenge to jury instructions brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, must the federal courts accept the state court determination that the instructions fully and correctly set out state law governing accomplice liability?

2. Where the accomplice liability instructions correctly set forth state law, is it an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law to conclude there was no reasonable likelihood that the jury misapplied the instructions so as to relieve the prosecution of the burden of proving all the elements of the crime?

In 1994, respondent Cesar Sarausad and other 23rd Street Diablos gang members drove to a Seattle high school to confront a rival gang. See Sarausad v. Porter, 479 F.3d 672, 674 (9th Cir.

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The authors would like to thank Professor John Blume for his assistance in understanding federal habeas corpus.

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United Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa

Issues 

1. Is a bankruptcy court’s confirmation of a debtor’s Chapter 13 plan void when the plan improperly discharges the debtor’s statutorily non-dischargeable student loans?

2. Does a debtor violate the due process rights of a student loan creditor when, instead of commencing a statutory adversary proceeding by filing a complaint and serving it, the debtor merely states in his Chapter 13 plan that the debt owed to the creditor will be discharged?

 

Francisco J. Espinosa filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and proposed in his Chapter 13 reorganization plan that he would repay $13,250 in student loans to United Student Aid Funds (“Funds”). Although Funds claimed they were owed an additional $4,582.15, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona confirmed Espinosa's plan as proposed, and Funds did not object to the confirmed plan. Espinosa repaid all debts according to the Chapter 13 plan. Funds subsequently began to intercept Espinosa's income tax refunds, claiming that Espinosa had improperly discharged his student loans, because Espinosa had not initiated a statutorily required adversary proceeding to determine whether repayment of the student loans would constitute an "undue hardship." While the U.S. District Court of Arizona held that Espinosa had violated Funds' due process interests by failing to initiate an adversary proceeding and serve a complaint and summons upon Funds according to the statutory procedure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, and Funds now appeals. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will determine how student loans and other debts are collected in bankruptcy and will affect the overall relationship between debtors and creditors in America.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

1. Student loans are statutorily non-dischargeable in bankruptcy unless repayment would cause the debtor an "undue hardship." Debtor failed to prove undue hardship in an adversary proceeding as required by the Bankruptcy Rules, and instead, merely declared a discharge in his Chapter 13 plan. Are the orders confirming the plan and discharging debtor void? 

2. Bankruptcy Rules permit discharge of a student loan only through an adversary proceeding, commenced by filing a complaint and serving it and a summons on an appropriate agent of the creditor. Instead, debtor merely included a declaration of discharge in his Chapter 13 plan and mailed it to creditor's post office box. Does such procedure meet the rigorous demands of due process and entitle the resulting orders to respect under principles of res judicata?

In 1988, Respondent Francisco J. Espinosa borrowed $13,250 in student loans through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which grants federally guaranteed loans. See Brief for Petitioner, United Student Aid Funds, Inc.

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United States v. Comstock

Issues 

May Congress authorize the civil commitment of a “sexually dangerous” person even after that person has completed his or her prison sentence?

 

Petitioner, the United States, argues that 18 U.S.C § 4248, which authorizes the civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” persons, is a constitutional exercise of Congressional power. Respondents, Graydon Earl Comstock Jr., et al. (“Comstock”), counter that civil commitment of an individual after the completion of a federal prison sentence exceeds Congressional power, because it (1) encroaches on states’ authority and (2) is neither necessary nor proper to operating a valid federal regulation. The Fourth Circuit rejected the United States’ argument that § 4248 is necessary and proper to its ability to maintain the federal penal system. The Supreme Court must now decide (1) whether § 4248 is incidental to Congress’ Article I powers and (2) whether civil commitment of individuals labeled “sexually dangerous” and already in federal custody or incompetent to stand trial is an encroachment on state power.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether Congress had the constitutional authority to enact 18 U.S.C. § 4248, which authorizes court-ordered civil commitment by the federal government of (1) "sexually dangerous" persons who are already in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, but who are coming to the end of their federal prison sentences, and (2) "sexually dangerous" persons who are in the custody of the Attorney General because they have been found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

This consolidated action addresses whether the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the authority to enact 18 U.S.C.

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Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive

Issues 

  1. Are final arbitration awards determined by the National Railroad Adjustment Board subject to review for violations of due process?
  2. Was the National Railroad Board applying a “retroactive” interpretation of the procedural requirements in its arbitration proceedings by dismissing a complaint because of untimely submission of evidence of prior conferencing between the parties?

 

Five railroad employees filed claims through their union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (“Brotherhood”), contesting disciplinary charges imposed by the Union Pacific Railroad (“Railroad”). The National Railroad Adjustment Board dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because the Brotherhood had failed to submit written evidence that the parties had met in conference. The District Court affirmed the Board’s decision. However, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in favor of the Brotherhood. The Seventh Circuit found that the due process rights of the Brotherhood were denied, because it was not clear when and how evidence of conferencing should be presented, and dismissal for reasons that were not clear at the time of filing functioned as a denial of its due process rights. The Railroad subsequently appealed this decision to the Supreme Court arguing that because submission of evidence is solely within the arbitrator’s discretion, the Board’s award should be final and binding. In granting certiorari, the Supreme Court’s decision will test the scope of the federal government’s power to review arbitration disputes between private parties. The Court’s decision will also affect future labor disputes and collective bargaining agreements in the railroad industry.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

The Railway Labor Act (“RLA”), 45 U.S.C. §§151 et seq., sets forth a comprehensive framework to resolve labor disputes in the railroad industry through binding arbitration before the National Railroad Adjustment Board (“the Board”). The statute provides that the Board's judgment “shall be conclusive . . . except . . . for”: (1) “failure . . . to comply” with the Act, (2) “failure . . . to conform or confine” its order “to matters within . . . the [Board’s] jurisdiction,” and (3) “fraud or corruption” by a Board member. 45 U.S.C. §153 First (q). This case involves the Board’s denial of employee grievance claims for failure to comply with its rules governing proof that the dispute had been submitted to a “conference” between the parties. 45 U.S.C. §152 Second. The Seventh Circuit held that the award must be set aside because the Board violated due process through retroactive recognition of a supposedly “new rule.” The questions presented are: 

  1. Whether the Seventh Circuit erroneously held, in square conflict with decisions of the Third, Sixth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits, that the RLA includes a fourth, implied exception that authorizes courts to set aside final arbitration awards for alleged violations of due process.
  2. Whether the Seventh Circuit erroneously held that the Board adopted a “new,” retroactive interpretation of the standards governing its proceedings in violation of due process.

For employees in the railroad industry, the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”) governs the resolution of labor disputes between rail carriers and unions regarding their collective bargaining agreements. The procedure for resolving these disputes, referred to as “on-property” proceedings, entails investigations, hearings, and appeals on the railroad property.

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Additional Resources 

·      Wex: Law about Collective Bargaining

·      Wex: Law about Labor Law

·      Workplace Prof Blog, Law Professor Blogs Network: Labor Law

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Smith v. Cain

Issues 

Whether evidence proffered by Smith, which he claims was suppressed and thus not available to the defense at trial, is material, and whether there is a reasonable possibility that this evidence could have affected the outcome of the trial.

Court below: 

 

Petitioner Juan Smith was the sole person convicted of killing five people in a Louisiana home. His conviction was primarily based on the testimony of a witness, a survivor of the shooting, who identified Smith as one of the gunmen responsible for the crime. In subsequent applications for review, Smith contended that his trial was unfair because the prosecution intentionally suppressed material evidence. In this case, Smith argues that the suppression of that evidence constituted a violation of his constitutional due process rights; he supports this argument by seeking to show that the suppressed evidence undermines confidence in the jury’s verdict against him. While Smith insists that he is entitled to a new trial, Respondent Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, insists that the evidence was neither material nor suppressed, thus opposing a new trial. This case may affect the standard to which a prosecutor is held with regard to disclosure of evidence.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

In this criminal case, the state trial court, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, and the Louisiana Supreme Court, without making any factual findings, or providing any reasons for their rulings, denied Petitioner Juan Smith post-conviction relief. Smith contends that the state courts reached this result only by disregarding firmly established precedents of this Court regarding suppression of material evidence favorable to a defendant and presentation of false or misleading evidence by a prosecutor.

1. Is there a reasonable probability that, given the cumulative effect of the Brady and Napue/Giglio violations in Smith’s case, the outcome of the trial would have been different?

2. Did the Louisiana state courts ignore fundamental principles of due process in rejecting Smith’s Brady and Napue/Giglioclaims?

A Louisiana state court convicted Petitioner Juan Smith of participating in the 1995 shooting murder of five people, and sentenced Smith to life in prison without parole. While two of the three survivors saw the gunmen responsible for the crime, only one survivor, Larry Boatner, identified Smith as one of the perpetrators. This identification came several months after the shooting, when Boatner saw a photo of Smith in a local newspaper article naming Smith as a potential suspect in the crime. The prosecution in the case lacked direct evidence of Smith’s guilt, such as fingerp

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San Remo Hotel v. San Francisco

Issues 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Is a Fifth Amendment Takings claim barred by issue preclusion based on a judgment denying compensation solely under state law, which was rendered in a state court proceeding that was required to ripen the federal Takings claim?

In 1981 the City of San Francisco ("the City") enacted its first Hotel Conversion Ordinance ("HCO"). The San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, 145 F.3d 1095, 1099 (9th Cir.1998) ("San Remo I"). The HCO was designed to stop the depletion of housing for the poor, elderly, and disabled by controlling the conversion of hotel units from residential to tourist use. Id.

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Sackett v. EPA

Issues 

Does a person who was issued a compliance order by the Environmental Protection Agency have the right to judicial review of the order prior to Environmental Protection Agency enforcement?

 

After Petitioners Chantell and Michael Sackett began construction on their land, they received a compliance order from Respondent, the Environmental Protection Agency, informing them that their construction project violated the Clean Water Act because it filled in protected wetlands. The Sacketts sought pre-enforcement judicial review of the compliance order under the Administrative Procedure Act, but were denied. The Sacketts assert that Congress intended to provide for pre-enforcement judicial review, and that without such review, the compliance order violates their due process rights. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that Congress intended to preclude judicial review of compliance orders under the Administrative Procedure Act because compliance orders are not self-executing. The Environmental Protection Agency argues that sufficient procedural safeguards exist under the Clean Water Act to provide adequate review before any penalties are enforced. The Supreme Court's decision will impact the ability of regulated parties to seek review of compliance orders, and will determine what methods the Environmental Protection Agency can utilize to respond to environmental emergencie

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Chantell and Michael Sackett own a small lot in a built-out residential subdivision that they graded to build a home. Thereafter, the Sacketts received an Administrative Compliance Order from the Environmental Protection Agency claiming that they filled a jurisdictional wetland without a federal permit in violation of the Clean Water Act. At great cost, and under threat of civil fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day, as well as possible criminal penalties, the Sacketts were ordered to remove all fill, replace any lost vegetation, and monitor the fenced-off site for three years. 

The Sacketts were provided no evidentiary hearing or opportunity to contest the order. And, the lower courts have refused to address the Sacketts' claim that the lot is not subject to federal jurisdiction. Do Petitioners have a right to judicial review of an Administrative Compliance Order issued without hearing or any proof of violation under Section 309(a)(3) of the Clean Water Act?

In 2007, Chantell and Michael Sackett purchased an undeveloped, residential plot in a subdivision near Priest Lake, Idaho. In preparation for construction, they filled in the majority of their property with dirt and rock. .

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Rivera v. Illinois

Issues 

Whether a court's decision in wrongfully denying a peremptory challenge requires an automatic reversal of the related conviction.

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Court below: 

 

This case concerns the effect of an erroneous denial of a criminal defendant's peremptory challenge to a prospective juror who was later seated. Defendant Rivera exercised a peremptory challenge to exclude Ms. Gomez, who worked administratively in a hospital known for treating gunshot victims. The trial judge denied the peremptory challenge, claiming a Batson violation. Ms. Gomez was seated on the jury, which then convicted Rivera of first degree murder in a gang related shooting. The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the judge committed harmless-error in denying this peremptory challenge. Upon appeal before the Supreme Court, Rivera argues that the erroneous denial of a peremptory challenge necessitates automatic reversal "because it undermines the trial structure for preserving the constitutional right to due process and an impartial jury." The State of Illinois, on the other hand, argues that there has been no constitutional violation, and that state law should determine the effect of an erroneous denial of a peremptory challenge on the verdict.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does the erroneous denial of a criminal defendant's peremptory challenge that resulted in the challenged juror being seated require automatic reversal of a conviction because it undermines the trial structure for preserving the constitutional right to due process and an impartial jury?

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In 1998, sixteen-year old Marcus Lee was fatally shot. See , Illinois at 1. Respondent the State of Illinois ("the State") charged Petitioner Michael Rivera with first degree murder. See The State alleged that Rivera, an alleged gang enforcer, murdered Lee because of an erroneous belief that Lee belonged to a rival gang. See , Michael Rivera at 3.

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Rice v. Collins

Issues 

Does the deference to a trial judge’s findings, embodied in the habeas corpus statute, extend to situations where the fact finder did not directly observe an incident of allegedly inappropriate conduct by a potential juror but merely accepted the prosecutor’s account of events? Can the Federal court consider such actions by the state court trial judge as unreasonable even where the trial judge’s ultimate finding nevertheless falls within the acceptable range of what a rational court could have found given the evidence presented before it?

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The Ninth Circuit recently granted criminal defendant Steven Martell Collins’ habeas corpus petition on the grounds that the prosecution unconstitutionally used a peremptory challenge to strike a potential juror on account of her race. Although the prosecutor convinced the trial judge that the dismissal was not racially motivated and was therefore acceptable, the Ninth Circuit found the trial judge’s decision to be unreasonable despite the fact that the decision was affirmed on numerous occasions throughout the state court system and at the Federal District Court. The Ninth Circuit held that, despite the statutory deference granted to the original fact-finder by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, such deference was inappropriate here. The Supreme Court will likely interpret § 2254 to determine whether the Ninth Circuit exceeded its authority when it held that the trial judge was unreasonable in accepting the prosecutor’s proffered reasons for dismissing the juror.

[Question(s) presented] | [Issue(s)] | [Facts] | [Discussion] | [Analysis]

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does 28 U.S.C. § 2254 allow a federal habeas corpus court to reject the presumption of correctness for state fact finding, and condemn a state-court adjudication as an unreasonable determination of the facts, where a rational fact finder could have determined the facts as did the state court?

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The below facts are all derived from the amended opinion of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Collins v. Rice, 365 F.3d 667, 673 (9th Cir. 2004). During the process of jury selection for Collins’s trial, the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to remove two African American women from the jury. Id.

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